We close this tumultuous year with three titles – No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories, Women Dreaming and Strange Beasts of China – translated from Kannada, Tamil, and Chinese, respectively.
First up, and finishing up our 2020 trifecta of short stories – and following on from Where the Wild Ladies Are by Matsuda Aoko (translated from Japanese by Polly Barton) and Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana (translated from Thai by Mui Poopoksakul – is No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories by Jayant Kaikini, translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana. Winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the collection is a potent portrayal of city life – exploring the sub-locales and spatial identities of Mumbai and the struggles of its small-town migrants. It made one of our team members – who first read the book in Bombay, and later in Birmingham – nostalgic for the city of her birth; such is the atmospheric and evocative quality and power of his prose.
In these sixteen stories, the reader travels through Irani cafés and chawls, old cinema halls and local trains, and follows Kaikini’s gaze as he takes in those on the margins of a city and a society – bus drivers, slum dwellers – and their epiphanies, fantasies and ambitions. This is one for fans of Vivek Shanbhag (of Ghachar Ghochar fame), who is himself also a fan! You can snack on some of the short stories on Lit Hub and Words Without Borders.
Salma is a poet and activist – first published in India by feminist luminaries Zubaan Press – and her newest work to be translated into English by Meena Kandasamy, Women Dreaming, is the second title in Tilted Axis Press’s autumn season. We’ve long been aware of, and admired her work from afar: having read The Hour After Midnight, translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom. Women Dreaming, which is just hot off the press, shines a light on the lives of Muslim Tamil women, and is set in a village in Tamil Nadu, southern India. Mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, neighbours… Salma’s storytelling – crystalline in its simplicity, patient in its unravelling – enters this interior world of women, held together by love, demarcated by religion, comforted by the courage in dreaming of better futures. Her writing is so excavatory, no character is left 2D. Meena Kandasamy felt the perfect pairing to translate this title – this is her first- full-length fiction translation! – because of her taste as a reader, her unique writing perspective and her experience as a translator. She builds spaces for her writing that haven’t previously been there, she creates rooms rather than moves into them. As Salma writes: ‘What a life! She didn’t like being here, and she didn’t like going there.’
We are honoured to have Jeremy Tiang, who is the very first person to be named Translator of the Fair at the London Book Fair, and one of the most respected translators from any language, translate our third title of the season. Our founder, Deborah Smith, had been following his work for a long time and reached out to him after he interviewed author Yan Ge for the US’ Centre of the Art of Translation about her novel Strange Beasts of China. Part detective story, part metaphysical enquiry, the book addresses existential questions of identity, being, love and morality with whimsy and grace, and is published in November (so get those Christmas pre-orders in!). Written when she was 21, Yan Ge has told us how looking at the novel in translation felt a shock to the system to see ‘the unconcealed rebellion, cynicism, bravery and romanticism of being painfully young’. One of the pieces that made us fall for Yan Ge’s writing is her essay ‘How to Survive as a Woman at a Chinese Banquet’, where she tells us how such banquets are everything but a gastronomic occasion – asking sticking questions such as: ‘Why had what appeared to be a crucifixion to me seemed like an act of enthronement in the eyes of men?’
We’d like to leave you with the gift of these words by Yan Ge: ‘All we have are stories.’
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(Article written by Sana Goyal, Tice Cin and the team at Tilted Axis Press.)